Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The US Position on the ‘1992 Consensus’: Why it Matters

Despite what President Ma has said, the U.S. does not recognize the so-called 1992 Consensus. Here's why it makes a difference 

As Taiwan’s 2016 presidential election approaches, the issue of the “1992 Consensus”—whether it exists, who signed it, who recognizes it, and how indispensible it is to cross-strait relations—has once again become the subject of heated debate. President Ma Ying-jeou, who has made the alleged consensus a cornerstone of his administration, has contended on a number of occasions, and did so again last week, that Beijing, Taipei, and the U.S. recognize its existence. Whether the construct actually exists or not is debatable. However, one thing that is certain is that Ma is being disingenuous when it comes to U.S. views on the matter: Washington does not recognize the 1992 Consensus—its official position is that it has “no position.” This may seem like a small thing, but it makes a big difference. 

With the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) unwilling to embrace it, the “consensus” has become a handy tool for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which has long positioned itself as the party that is best able to handle relations across the Taiwan Strait in a peaceful and constructive manner. According to the KMT’s logic, the DPP’s refusal to recognize the consensus (in large part due to its presumption of “one China”) signifies that the latter is insincere in its desire to cultivate ties with Beijing (the KMT’s official line on the consensus is “one China” with different interpretations of what “one China” means, a precision that is evidently left out by Beijing). Also implied is that a DPP victory in January 2016 would mean a return to an atmosphere of contention and instability in the Taiwan Strait. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

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